Midwest Nest Magazine

Midwest Nest Magazine

Culture, Entertaining, and Home Design

Laurie’s [Shoppes at BLU Water Creek]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography As the first store to open in Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, Laurie’s had already experienced 38 years of success as…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
As the first store to open in Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, Laurie’s had already experienced 38 years of success as one of the area’s most distinguished, specialty clothing boutiques. After 10 years in their 32nd Avenue location, owner Kristi Larkin decided it was time to start a new chapter in a brand-new shopping destination. Despite her stunning new store and expanded inventory, Larkin continues to thrive relying on a concept she’s coined, The Laurie’s Way. To Larkin, this means carrying on the true boutique experience of offering a wide variety of beautiful clothing, in fewer, more exclusive quantities. If that doesn’t lure you in, we’ll introduce you to the unofficial store greeter, Lily – a “teddy bear” Bichon Frise Shih Tzu mix.

A Passion for Fashion
Larkin discovered her passion for fashion and retail merchandising early on, starting at Dayton’s when she was 16, then working at Laurie’s while obtaining a degree in both Apparel and Textiles as well as Business. Larkin went on to work as a buyer for Dayton’s before returning to the area.Creating a unique boutique experience, Larkin firmly believes that her beloved sidekick Lily is part of the charm. “Lily is our main host here at the store. People always ask about her – if I had a store full of Lilys, I could retire,” laughed Larkin. “Most people want to know if she’s for sale.” Not only can guests enjoy Lily’s company as they peruse the racks, guests are also welcome to bring their own furry friends. This is a concept Larkin sees in her travels and wanted to incorporate into her own store environment.

“The front area was really meant to be a comfortable space for not only our customers but also for their spouses and children,” said Larkin. “There’s a T.V. for Bison games or cartoons for the kids along with beverages they can help themselves to while they’re waiting. It’s also a nice, relaxing place for people who are coming in from out of town. Having a space like this can really make it an enjoyable experience all around.” Beyond relaxation, Larkin also uses this area for entertaining during trunk shows and other events throughout the year.

Boutique guests will find an array of brands like 7 For All Mankind, Joseph Ribkoff, Bailey 44, Brighton, Dana Stein Furs, David Cline, Ecru, Elliot Lauren, Fifteen Twenty, Halebob, Pure Amici, In Cashmere and many more.

“Our key to success is knowing who we are and what we stand for – then being true to our vision.”
Kristi Larkin, Owner of Laurie’s

Perks of the New Location:
After seeing many of her 32nd Avenue South neighbors relocate to this area, Larkin’s interest was piqued. When Hair Success owners Jill Krahn and Jodi Ellingson contacted her about the new Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, it didn’t take Larkin long to make the decision. The move would double her square footage and give her better visibility in a high-traffic and thriving neighborhood.

Larkin also helped recruit some of her neighbors to the area. “I think our businesses really compliment one another and I felt it would give people more reasons to visit this area and help create a destination,” said Larkin. “I’m just so excited at how it’s all come together and I feel grateful to have been asked to be a part of it. I’m happy that they thought enough of us and the history we bring to the community, to think that we should be here and be part of this new community and shopping experience. I like to think of it as we’re all a little family in the neighborhood.”

Finding the Perfect Fit
In the new location, Larkin was able to expand and redesign her spacious fitting rooms. Just outside of the fitting rooms, Larkin has done away with the disappearing store clerk, a problem so many stores face while working on inventory in the back of the house. She’s designed a merchandise station out front, allowing her to do the daily inventory work, yet still see to her guests every whim at the nearby fitting rooms. During trunk shows, this space transforms into one of two entertaining spaces throughout the store.

Staying Classy
“This is definitely a dream of mine. Fashion and retail merchandising had always been a love. When my mentor, Laurie (Chatham) retired, it was an opportunity where the timing was right for me,” said Larkin. “As a divorced, single mom, it provided work-life balance for me and my daughter, Hailey. She could be here with me on days when she didn’t have school. She’s 19 now, but she still comes and helps out from time to time when she doesn’t have class.”

“Our key to success is knowing who we are and what we stand for – then being true to our vision,” said Larkin. This means keeping standards high and concepts simple. In visiting with Larkin, her passion is clear and her goal has always been one thing – to create a true boutique experience, rooted solely in her love of beautiful clothing and accessories. Laurie’s does not carry mass quantities of any particular item and for good reason. By offering a wide variety of clothing in fewer, more exclusive quantities, guests are content knowing that fewer people will be playing the inevitable game of “Who wore it best?”. For Larkin, the perfect fit means personalizing the experience for each customer and promoting a positive body image through exclusive and timeless fashions.

For more information, contact:
3265 45th St. S. Suite 100, Fargo

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DIY: A Rainbow Book Wall

Words by Katie Sullivan Photography by Dan Francis Photography Turn an empty wall into a functional work of art with a can of black paint and a pile of your…

Words by Katie Sullivan
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Turn an empty wall into a functional work of art with a can of black paint and a pile of your kids’ books. DIY projects don’t have to be complex to make an impact!


Tape measure

Black paint

Paint roller


3.5” deep acrylic shelves from cleardisplays.com



Stud finder

Sheetrock anchors


Drill or screwdriver

Colorful books

How to Prepare

Measure your wall and determine how many shelving units you will need. Clear Display Solutions offers several lengths, which can be paired together to create almost endless options. We bought the 3.5” deep flat shelves and installed them in three rows, equaling 96”. Our shopping cart had six of the 36” and three of the 24” shelves. Each row had one long, one short and one long.

To make your books really pop, break out black paint and roll it on! We used Behr’s Broadway, but we recommend you sample a few colors to make sure you get the perfect black for your space. A true, flat black works best because it allows the books to take center stage.

Once the paint has dried and your cardboard box full of clear shelves has arrived, it’s time to make it happen!

Installing the Shelves

  • Use a pencil and a level to mock up the rows.

Insider Tip: Make sure you consider how tall the books you’re using are when spacing out your rows.

  • Mark the locations of the shelves’ pre-drilled holes.
  • Get out your stud finder and pray the pre-drilled holes fall on a stud or two.
  • Install a sheetrock anchor anywhere that there needs to be a screw, but there isn’t a stud.
  • Touch up the paint and wait for it to dry.
  • Screw in the shelves!

Insider Tip: Be careful not to overtighten the screws or your acrylic will crack. We may or may not have learned this the hard way!

  • Arrange your books Roy. G. Biv style! For non-rainbow enthusiasts, that’s red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and then violet.

Insider Tip: Use two to four books per stack.

For more information, contact:

Katie Sullivan



Connect with me on social media:

Facebook @Pretty Domesticated

Instagram @PrettyDomesticated

Pinterest @Ktmsullivan

For more tips, complete sourcing information and to tour the rest of our home, visit prettydomesticated.com. 

My Favorite Black Paints

Because is there really such a thing as too many black walls?

Behr Broadway 

Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black 

Sherwin Williams Black Magic 

Benjamin Moore Black Beauty 

Purchase shelves at cleardisplays.com


Chaise – Room & Board

Teepee – Tnee’s Tpees

Drawers – Ikea

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Stop Playing with Your Food

Words and photos by Anastasia de Celle In a whimsically appetizing print exhibition at the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo, artist Anna Kohnen explores childhood humor and the behavioral tendencies…

Words and photos by Anastasia de Celle

In a whimsically appetizing print exhibition at the Spirit Room in downtown Fargo, artist Anna Kohnen explores childhood humor and the behavioral tendencies which change as we become adults. Her series of three prints entitled, Stop Playing with Your Food, delves into the theory of how devouring a simple childhood snack like animal crackers can become a metaphor for the growing complexity of adulthood. Earlier this year, I spent a few days with her as she created one of the pieces, Circle of Life, taking it from concept to final edition.

Why Animal Crackers? 

As she was drawing out Circle of Life on the computer, I asked, “Why animal crackers? Where did the concept for this come from?” She smiled and explained how she noticed a difference between how children and adults eat animal crackers.

“I was doing various research on snacks from my childhood. I noticed specifically with animal crackers, adults and children eat them very differently. Children eat them without thought, like how they eat every other snack. But with adults, there is a trend that the act of eating an animal cracker takes conscious thought and could even question morals. I noticed that the adults were consciously eating animal crackers by first biting off the head, then the limbs, and then whatever is left of the cracker. I thought this was interesting, as well as horrifying – the fact that people will choose to eat a cracker in this calculated manner. I thought that this vast difference of eating an animal cracker was compelling and this fits in perfectly with my exploration of childhood versus adulthood research.”

Circle of Life 

I asked about the overall concept of her series. On cue, like she was reading from a script, she answered without pause: “Stop Playing with Your Food is a print series that explores the relationship between childish wonder, growing up and looking back on ‘better’ days. The series reflects a nostalgic state of being blissfully unaware by distorting childhood associations of objects and circumstances.”

“Through the use of common and iconic imagery, the viewer can connect with situations adults might interpret one way through the naivety and simplified vision of a child. These works aim to pair a sense of reality with a cartoonish style to reflect the curiosity, reasoning and ideas of these two groups. Stop Playing with Your Food emphasizes the skewed reality that results from memory and reflection.”

I replied with something along the lines of, “Wow, you’ve got that down word-for-word.” Kohnen, who just graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from NDSU, laughed and said, “Well, that’s what happens when you go to critique every single week for a year.”

Coffee Before Crackers

After spending a couple days working on her digital drawing, she finally came up with a design she was happy with. Now, it was on to the second phase of her process: printing. Kohnen’s medium of focus is printmaking while specializing in screen printing. But before heading over to the studio, she needed to run a very important errand – a coffee run. “Printing is a long process, coffee is a crucial point in that process, and for life in general,” explained Kohnen.

With the much-needed coffee bought and brewed, we headed over to NDSU’s Renaissance Hall where she spent an hour prepping her screen for printing. I asked her why she had chosen printmaking as her medium; why not something else? “I chose printmaking because it allows me to work fast and it gives me a result that is unique to the medium. Through the process of working with layers, I get to react to the piece as I’m printing it. There is always unexpected problem-solving involved in the printing process that creates a result that I could never plan and I like the results of it. Screen printing helps express my content because the medium is very bold and graphic by nature. That style fits in with my aesthetic and fits with the iconic imagery that I’m working with.”

Food for Thought

As I watched her print, I finally understood what she meant. As she worked, she was reacting to how the ink behaved depending on what material she printed on. The way the previous layer printed affected how she would print the next layer. The image she first created on the computer was now a completely different entity. The resulting image had taken on a whole new life. Just like her childhood inspiration, maybe Kohnen has stumbled upon a life worth savoring, one delicious crumb at a time.

About the Artist
Kohnen is an artist who works in printmaking and drawing, originally from Corcoran, Minnesota. She is an active artist in the Fargo-Moorhead area and has pieces in the Plains Art Museum archive. Kohnen was awarded NDSU’s Marguerite Scholar Tollefson and the Wayne Tollefson Scholarships for excellence in studio work in 2017. In 2018 Kohnen will graduate with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Meet the Artist!
Stop Playing with Your Food is a print exhibition by artist Anna Kohnen currently on display at the Spirit Room in Downtown Fargo. There will be an artist’s reception on Thursday, June 7 at 7 p.m., artist’s talk at 7:30 p.m. Exhibition hours are 1:00-5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday through June 16th.Kohnen is producing the three prints from Stop Playing with Your Food in limited editions of 15 each. Prints can be ordered at the exhibition until sold out.For more information, contact:

Instagram: akohnen

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From Italy to Fargo… Recreating an Agriturismo Dining Experience [Laneil Skaff & Julie Stoe]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography On Laneil Skaff’s last day in Italy, she was tasked with finding the perfect restaurant to round out their adventure. A…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

On Laneil Skaff’s last day in Italy, she was tasked with finding the perfect restaurant to round out their adventure. A quick online search had their crew navigating an intense path of twisting roads into the hills of an old vineyard named Borgo La Casetta. According to the reviews, the bed and breakfast promised an unforgettable, Tuscan dining experience. Greeting them at the door amidst a picturesque, hill-top setting were chefs Renzo and Laura Morosi, delightfully friendly hosts that were thrilled to introduce them to authentic Tuscan cuisine. With no menu, no prices and countless courses, the vineyard turned Agriturismo café and inn, spent hours wining and dining the group with their fresh and seasonal fare, grown in their own backyard. Returning home with a glowing review of her own, Skaff’s daughter Julie Stoe was right behind her, planning her own trip to meet the now-infamous chefs. After a total of three trips to visit the inn between the two, Skaff and Stoe decided it was time to recreate their Tuscan experience, this time in Skaff Apartment’s beautiful Stone West kitchen and community room.

Agriturismo Inn-spiration
Nestled amidst the rolling hills, olive trees and vineyards of San Baronto, Italy, Borgo La Casetta would inspire Skaff and Stoe to gather as many of the Morosi’s recipes as they could, planning to translate them into their own style of cooking, then recreate them back home. With the inn located on a working farm, the chefs relied on seasonal ingredients, the finest meats and cheeses, as well as their own pressed olive oil for the base of their dishes.

Dining-In: Borgo La Casetta
Inside the property’s bed and breakfast, which was once a winery owned by Renzo Morosi’s family, the café offers guests a charming and intimate dining experience with just 10 small tables. “The chefs prefer reservations but seem happy to cook for anyone who arrives,” said Skaff. “It’s usually packed full of locals coming in for special occasions. Their son Marcello also works there and serves, while Renzo’s mom comes in to wash dishes some nights.

Worth Every Euro…
“On my first visit to Tuscany, I found the inn on Yelp – it was rated number one,” said Skaff. “We walked in and asked for an English menu and he said, ‘Oh, you’re here. Now I cook for you!’ The whole time we sat there, we wondered how much this was going to cost since we didn’t know what he would be serving us. After a few courses, we didn’t care because it was worth every penny for the experience. It was Chianti wine and Lemoncello made by Renzo, port wine, grappa and espresso. Grappa is just a liquor that is known to help break down food for better digestion. We had all of these drinks and about seven courses to go with them, bringing them out one at a time. It ended perfectly with the apple cake that you’ll find in this month’s recipes. The entire experience ended up costing 25 Euros each, which equates to about $30 a person.”

While Skaff visited Tuscany in 2013 and again last May, Stoe embarked on her own Italian adventure, last October. “We visited Renzo’s home because we really wanted that Tuscan experience that my mom had told me about,” said Stoe. “We looked him up and found out that we could stay at the inn, so we ended up in a cute little apartment and ate at the café every night. When we went deeper into the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, we actually drove an hour and a half back just to eat there on our last night because it was so good. Renzo and Laura made something different every night – it was an amazing trip.”

“In Tuscan culture, they really value their family and their food; taking pride in the way they cook and serve each meal, savoring and appreciating the food they’ve grown.”
Julie Stoe

Americans versus Italians
If you’re planning a dinner in Italy, Stoe suggests carving out two to three hours devoted entirely to food. “In Italy, they always do multiple courses, starting with a charcuterie or antipasto selection, then a bruschetta, soup, pasta, meat, potato and different vegetables, a salad, then finish with a dessert,” said Stoe. “It’s just so different from how Americans dine. There are typically about five or more courses and the pasta is brought out separately from the meat with everything served family-style with smaller tasting plates.”

“They are also really proud of their meats and their process for making salami and sausage,” said Stoe. “When Renzo cooked for us, he’d always come out and tell us where the meats were from. He also gave us a new appreciation for good quality, fresh olive oil. Renzo taught us to cook with the cheap oil and save the best for the table. In Tuscan culture, they really value their family and their food; taking pride in the way they cook and serve each meal, savoring and appreciating the food they’ve grown.”


Bruschetta Basics
“Bruschetta in Italy is a little different than what we’d see in the U.S. They serve it with just straight olive oil and rub a whole garlic on the bread, that’s their classic bruschetta,” said Stoe. “They also serve it with egg and truffle oil, liver paté and the more recognizable tomato and basil – they really utilize their lands. Renzo makes his own olive oil, sometimes pressing it that day, so we were able to bring that back with us.”

“For their bruschetta, they tend to use what’s in season and find ways to cook with every part of it,” said Skaff. “Their bread is really a vehicle for anything they want to serve. They also use unsalted bread, which was really different than what we’re used to. In the middle ages, salt was heavily taxed. The bakers in Florence decided it was just too expensive and chose to live without it.”

Casio E Pepe
“We had this dish in Rome. Each area of Tuscany seemed to have a specialty pasta and this is the one Rome is famous for,” said Skaff.  “It uses that very thick spaghetti called bucatini. This is a very simplistic dish, but the key is high-quality ingredients. When we tried to bring this recipe back to the U.S., we found their pasta technique to be a little too difficult for the average cook. They use hot water and mash it all onto the sides of the bowl and keep mixing until it comes onto the spaghetti. This process is so foreign to us, so we were able to modify the recipe by adding a bit of butter to the cheeses, yet still using some of their easier techniques to get that same flavor.”

Renzo’s Chicken
“We love Renzo’s chicken and it’s become a family favorite for us,” said Stoe. “We couldn’t believe that he shared the recipe with us.”

Before you head to the store to stock-up, we asked Skaff to give us a few quick tips and tricks for the prep work:
– When the recipe calls for white wine, although most recipes call for a dry wine like Chardonnay, I prefer a little sweeter wine like a Pino Grigio.

–  When buying the cheeses, use the highest quality cheese your budget allows and ALWAYS buy a block and grate it yourself.

– When using herbs, take the time to heat or saute them with garlic to extract more flavor.
– If you often cook with tomato paste, try swapping out your cans for a tube of tomato paste. Most recipes only call for a tablespoon, so you’ll have a lot less waste.

Italian” as Apple Pie?
When Stoe and Skaff visited Italy, they both found out quickly that Italian apple pie is not actually pie at all. “To Americans, this would be considered more of an apple cake or tart,” said Stoe. “This was one of Laura’s favorite family recipes. I use very thin slices of apples and arrange them like Laura did, but once it’s in the oven, the dough will actually cook over them. It’s absolutely delicious.” Setting the perfect backdrop for the perfect finish, Skaff included the hand-dyed, yellow table runner she found on her last trip to Italy.

[Course 1]


Cheese(from left)
Pecorino Pepato, Italian – sheep’s milk
Boschetto Al Tartufo, Italian – semi-soft with white truffle shavings, cow and sheep’s milk

Teleggio- Lombardi, Italian – wash-rind cow’s milk
*These cheeses can be found at Luna in Fargo

Genoa Salami, Capicola ham, Pancetta, Prosciutto, Hard SalamiNote: “The balsamic and olive oil is from a small winery in Italy that we visited in Tuscany,” said Stoe. “Both of the wines are from The Casa Emma vineyard in the Chianti region.”

[Course 2]

Bruschettas and Garlic Toast

Garlic toast

Rustic Italian bread

Good, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic cloves – cut the short way

Slice bread thin, drizzle with EVOO and grill or toast

When toasted – rub with cut side of garlic

Scrambled Eggs w/Truffle Oil Bruschetta

2 – eggs

2 – Tbsp. cream or Half and Half

– Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

– A couple of drops truffle oil or grated parmesan

Whisk eggs and cream together. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in small skillet over medium heat. Pour in eggs using a rubber spatula – continue to scrape pan until eggs are almost scrambled. Drizzle in truffle drops or grated parmesan. Place on top of garlic toast and sprinkle pepper on top.

Tomato Bruschetta

6-7 plum tomatoes (I use many different kinds – whatever looks ripe and flavorful)

2 – garlic cloves – minced small

1 – Tbsp. EVOO

1 – tsp. balsamic vinegar

6-8 fresh basil leaves – chopped fine

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and stem. Dice small. Stir in garlic, EVOO, balsamic and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place on top of garlic toast.


[Course 3]

Casio E Pepe

Makes 2 servings


6 – Oz. Pasta (bucatini-thick spaghetti or spaghetti)

3 – Tbsp. butter, cubed, divided

1 – Tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

¾ – C. Finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan

1/3 – C. finely grated Pecorino Romano

Kosher salt


Bring water to boil. Season with salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water. While pasta is cooking, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and stir until toasted, one minute. Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter.

Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano (or parmesan), stirring and tossing with tongs until melted.

Remove pan from heat. Add Pecorino Romano, again stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is cooked to your desired tenderness. Add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry.

Serve immediately.


[Course 4]

Renzo’s Chicken

15 – chicken legs- skinned and the top half of the bone cut off

2-3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 – Tbsp. Fresh rosemary – chopped
1 1/2 – Tsp. – Fresh sage – chopped
3 – Cloves garlic – minced
1 1/2 – Tsp. kosher salt
1 – Tsp. Pepper
1 – glass white wine
3 – Tbsp. tomato paste
1 –  C. hot water
A handful of small black olives (optional)

Skin and cut the bone off of the drumstick; in cutting the bone – if you lay the drumstick so the bone is NOT flat on the cutting board, then come down with a good-sized knife, it should break quite easily.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to med-high heat. Brown drumsticks – turning until all sides are brown – about 15 minutes total. Remove from pan and saute garlic and spices two to three minutes. Add wine and deglaze the pan. When the wine has cooked down most of the way, add tomato paste and water. Stir until combined and add chicken back in. Cover and turn down to simmer (low, slow boil) and simmer until the oil comes to the top of the sauce (approx. 30-45 minutes). Optional olives can be added at this time.
Serve and enjoy!


[Course 5]

Italian Apple Pie


7 – Tbsp. butter – room temperature

1 ¼  – C. sugar

3 – eggs

½ – C. milk

1 – C. white flour

2 – Tsp. baking powder

2 – Tsp. vanilla

Zest of one lemon

3-4 apples – very thinly sliced


Cream butter and sugar

Add eggs  – one at a time until incorporated

Pour in milk, flour, baking powder and lemon zest

Mix just until combined

Pour into at least a 9” pie plate

Scatter apples on top

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes until center is done.


Renzo’s Recommendation:
“Before we left, Renzo highly-recommended we get our hands on this cookbook; Tuscan Cookery by Elisabetta Piazzesi, to help us create true Tuscan cuisine,” said Stoe. “There is everything from garlic toast to bruschetta variations and really all of the different courses. We often use this cookbook at home and have found some amazing recipes in there.”

Find the Food:
Cheese selection – Luna, Fargo
Wine selection – Casa Emma Winery, Florence, Italy
Via della Casetta – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Borgo La Casetta InnPlan your trip!
Agriturismo Borgo La Casetta
Renzo and Laura Morosi
San Baronto, Italyinfo@borgolacasetta.it
borgolacasetta.itFor more information, contact:

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A “Home Away From Home” [Inside Fargo’s new Ronald McDonald House]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Britta the Photographer Since 1982, the Fargo Ronald McDonald House team has been striving to create a comfortable, home-like setting for out-of-town families dealing…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by Britta the Photographer

Since 1982, the Fargo Ronald McDonald House team has been striving to create a comfortable, home-like setting for out-of-town families dealing with a devastating diagnosis. This team knows all too well the effect that a childhood condition or disease can have on an entire family, adding new levels of emotional and financial stress that can elevate an already traumatic time. With more and more families seeking care in Fargo, the need to provide for them has only grown. After years of planning and fundraising, the team is proud to unveil the new, expanded Ronald McDonald House. This is a home in every sense of the word; built on our community’s generosity, with a foundation centered on family.

A Vision for Caring
When the RMH team found out about Sanford’s new campus in 2010, they decided it was time to start thinking about their strategic plan for the future. With their two existing homes busting at the seams, the team, led by executive director, Jill Christopher, started fundraising in 2015 and would eventually break ground at their new location last July.

Working with Foss Architecture + Interiors and Nor-Son, the RMH team was finally able to see their long-time vision become a reality. To design their dream house, the RMH team researched over 20 other Ronald McDonald Houses, taking their ideas to the architect and contractor. They would need to merge their two other homes into one new location. “Nor-Son was amazing at getting us a price that we could actually afford,” said Christopher.

“This community is incredibly generous. This is a five million dollar project and we’ve raised over $4.7 of that, so we are really close to our goal,” adds Christopher. “It was nice that our donors got a chance to jump on board early and be part of the vision that we were working towards. They all kind of found their space that really meant a lot to them. There are so many more amenities here and about 90% of our families go to the nearby Sanford. So, the location is key here. You can see the new house from Sanford, so it makes it really easy for our guests to find.”

Take a Tour!
Upon arrival, new families meet in a private office with staff of the Ronald McDonald House to plan their stay and learn more about the process. “We typically have families who will stay on average 10 days. Our longest stay has been about six months,” said Christopher. “Most of our families are coming from the NICU with premature babies, but we also work with cancer, eating disorders and everything in between. Families are able to self-refer to the house, but most of our families find out about it from the hospital staff. Our families are asked to pay only $20 a night if they are able, but no one is turned away if they cannot pay. Last year, 90% of our families paid nothing to stay here and we couldn’t do that without the donors that help make this possible.”

Across the hall, families can visit the library and the arts and crafts room. The library is a quiet place for parents who might be trying to work during their stay. In the arts and crafts room, guests will find a custom mural painted by artist, Emily Brooks.

Just past the entrance, staff now have access to a wing devoted to their office space, break room and administration. Right now RMH has only six full-time and three part-time staff members.

At the Heart of the Home
The RMH team made sure to design a kitchen that could accommodate multiple families and groups of volunteers who arrive daily to cook meals. Their design incorporates three kitchens, with one designated for volunteers. A larger pantry, three stoves, two sinks and two massive islands encompass the space with one area of accommodations designed for individuals with disabilities.

Envisioning a space at the heart of the home where their families could gather in a comfortable setting, their expansive dining room seats up to 30 at a time, overlooking the soon-to-be landscaped backyard and in close proximity to the rooms designated for teens and young children.

Caring for Kids
Just off the dining room, guests will find a special place just for the kids. Collaborating with Foss Architecture to design the playhouse, they were able to incorporate working lights, a mailbox, flowers and a doorbell. This space also features a reading and dress-up area designed to keep little ones happy and occupied.

“We have a boy who stayed with us over the course of about seven years during his cancer treatment. We saw how important it was that he was able to do normal kids things like playing with mega blocks, playing UNO and running around the house like children do. In this new location, we were able to bring all of those things plus a lot more,” said Christopher. “Even that little sense of normalcy when they don’t have a lot of normal in their life at that time makes a big difference.”

As the weather warms, their backyard landscape will be completed to include a fenced backyard with a Rainbow Play System and playhouse for the kids, which will be easily visible from the inside kitchen and dining area.

The Magic Room
With so many of their guest families going through trying times, the RMH team knew all too well that sometimes the kids needed a little extra magic to brighten their day. Paul Dezotell of Sioux Falls, S.D., created the beautiful wall leading to the area the team refers to as the “Magic Room”.

“They come to the entrance and after they say the magic words, the door opens automatically,” explained Christopher. “We have little costumes they can wear and they have to have the magic wand in their hand. When they enter the room, they get to choose one item from our walls of donated toys. It’s nice for the kids that might be here for care, but also really nice for their siblings if they’re feeling a little left out.”

Gaming & Theater Room
In their previous space, RMH noticed a lack of space for older kids and adults, so RMH designed a special gaming and theater room to better suit teens or adults. “We enjoyed working with the NDSU Student-Athlete Association and Fargo Pinball to pull this room together,” said Christopher. “They came in and designed the gaming and DVD systems with theater chairs that recline to watch the game as well as our Star Wars pinball machine.”

Still in the early stages, located on the first floor, guest will soon have a full fitness room stocked with equipment for the families to use during their stay.

“It’s more than a hotel or a place to sleep,” said Christopher. “It’s also them being able to have that support system from the volunteers and staff here and the other families staying here. After a day at the hospital, they can come back here and talk to people who know what they’re going through and have a real conversation about their day. This house is built to have those places to help them relieve some stress.”

Second Floor Living
With donations from La-Z-Boy and other generous donors, they were able to create a space near the guest rooms where families can relax, unwind and even enjoy a fun game night.

Just off of the family room, guests have access to a complimentary laundry room, complete with four washers and dryers.

Guest Rooms
The second floor features 12 guest rooms, most of them sleeping four people with private bathrooms and blackout curtains for those who need to sleep during the day. Two of their rooms provide for larger families and are able to sleep six with one ADA room featuring larger turn radiuses for wheelchairs and a roll-in shower design.

All of the mattresses were donated by Tempurpedic with furniture donated by Solid Comfort. Mini-fridges will be coming soon and every family gets a welcome blanket which they’ll find at the end of their bed. “The blankets we have now were given in memory of a little boy who stayed with but has since passed away,” said Christopher. “A group of his FCCLA people from his hometown made them which is really sweet, it makes me smile to see them.”

To set a beautiful tone, one of their board member’s sons, Micah Zimmerman donated his photography images and Solid Signs printed them for artwork to be hung in the guest rooms. “Every guest room will have the same images, with one being a little more Minnesota and the other more North Dakota, so it relates to all of our visiting families,” said Christopher.

Ready for Expansion!
With growth inevitably on the way, the team is planning for seven more guest rooms that are currently shelled-in on the third floor. Right now, 17 of their 24 total rooms are finished.


Did you Know?

In 1977, a social worker in Fargo, Wayne Allard, noticed that too many families with sick children in Fargo were sleeping on floors or in their car due to financial issues. With the help of a mother of a child with leukemia, he set out to make a change, eventually spearheading the 1982 opening of the first Fargo Ronald McDonald House on North Broadway. In May of 2005, the second Fargo Ronald McDonald House was opened on South University Drive.


Built for the Future
“We are sad to leave our previous homes behind, but this new home has really brought us into a modern era of how people want to live today and how we can serve them better – it just provides so much more opportunity for our families and our growth,” said Christopher. “We also have expansion capabilities on the third floor plus the ability to add-on in the future.”

This new building will allow the RMH team to incorporate more programming and activities for the families they care for. “We have Beta, our therapy dog and we will be able to incorporate more things like having coffee and conversation programs, art therapy, music and different things that might bring some families comfort that we weren’t able to do in our old building,” explained Christopher. “We’re also working on a project with Essentia to put in a small space over there for families in the NICU called ‘The Family Room’. This project is still in the works, going through state approvals right now.”

Volunteer your Time
For those who are considering volunteering, we encourage you to take the leap. “We have almost a thousand volunteers a year that come in and share their talents, make meals, clean, organize or help with events,” said Christopher. “That’s something that really means a lot to us and allows us to do what we do with a very small staff of nine people. The community that we live in and the people that are willing to help us are incredible.”

Donate to the Ronald McDonald House!
The new home is fully donation-funded. “We couldn’t do this without the donors; from everyone who gives money, whether it’s five dollars or five thousand dollars, it all adds up,” said Christopher. “We couldn’t have made this happen or run this home without the volunteers and donors.”

“Some of the things we need right now are Keurig K-Cups, paper towels, Clorox wipes and Swiffer cleaning items,” said Christopher. “K-Cups are really popular with our families because they can come down and make the coffee they want, which is a small thing, but it means a lot to our families. Also, our laundry is free for families, so we’re always in need of laundry detergent. Obviously, monetary donations are always helpful, but we take donations of blankets, toys, food, any type of paper product – really anything you would use in your own home, we’d probably be able to use here.”

Find the Finishes:
Architect – Foss Architecture + Interiors
Contractor – Nor-Son
Theater chairs – Ashley Homestore
NDSU Bison gear – NDSU Student-Athlete Association
Signage – Office Sign Company
Guest room furniture – Solid Comfort
Guest room artwork – Micah Zimmerman, Solid Signs
Family room tent – Modern Textiles
Family room furniture – La-Z-Boy
Dining tables – Furniture Mart
Magic room wall design – Paul Dezotell, Paul Dez Arts
Arts and crafts mural – Emily Brooks
Playhouse – Foss Architecture + Interiors

For more information on donating to the Ronald McDonald House, contact:
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley
4757 Agassiz Crossing South, Fargo
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[Inside] Gate City Bank – Downtown Fargo Renovation

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography The joy of featuring local office design is showing spaces that you and I may never get the chance to…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography

The joy of featuring local office design is showing spaces that you and I may never get the chance to see. In the heart of Downtown Fargo, Gate City Bank has been busy at work renovating their second-floor. To explain it, we ask you to imagine coming to work in an environment which mimics a beautiful home. Now imagine that home with stunning artwork, high-end finishes, nine TVs, a treadmill workstation, state-of-the-art kitchen and an array of collaborative workspaces to suit your every mood. To find out why Gate City Bank believes their space defines their culture, we met with Jay Krabbenhoft, Senior Vice President of Administration, who gave us an in-depth tour of their new, second-floor space designed to inspire… with all the comforts of home.

Renewal & Renovation | Second Floor

To create a more inviting atmosphere for everyone, Chairman, President and CEO, Steve Swiontek provided his vision to the Gate City Bank design team who collaborated with architect Andrew Koedam of Wild | CRG. With Wild | CRG officing within the Gate City Bank building, he has become embedded in their culture, often attending company events and gatherings to better understand their culture, goals and needs.

Serving over 250 corporate office employees, Gate City Bank’s goal was to create a work environment that would exceed the needs of their team members. To accomplish this, all of the workstations are designed to accommodate a sit or stand option, with adjustable desk heights and three monitors.

Although most would assume an open office plan would result in amplified noise levels, this space is specifically engineered for sound reduction via architectural elements like extra floor padding and a specialized drapery which absorbs noise.

Along the atrium’s south wall, Gate City Bank has undergone an extensive facelift, creating a new wall of 13-foot windows harvesting abundant natural light and aiding in their employee’s well-being.

Investing in an Inspired Environment

Gate City Bank is well-known for being an avid supporter of the art community. Over 80 percent of their paintings, pottery and sculpture pieces are sourced from local artists and galleries.

Second-Floor Artists Featured:

Boyd Sharp, Susan Piazza, Carrie Swanke, Mary Johnston, Josaine Childers, Smith Carney, Barnes, Michael Thompson, Tim McFadden, Sandi Dahl, Will Richard, Hong, Yuenxu, Kathleen Hope, P.T. Tiersky, Mantin, Sue Boyd, James Wolberg, Linda Kall, Ursula Brenner and Davidson.

“By creating visually appealing, unique, and transparent working environments for our team members, we’re able to foster a culture of creativity and innovation. We have a passion for making the lives of our customers and team members better, by investing in them and their communities for a better way of life.”
Steve Swiontek, Chairman, President and CEO, Gate City Bank.

For this renovation, the bank worked with local artists to carefully choose each piece and location for install. “There are over 250 people who work in this building, so we believe everyone here should get to enjoy local art. It helps support the art community and it enhances the work environment,” explained Krabbenhoft. “The better part of our day is spent at work, so it’s nice to be able to incorporate some fun and creativity. We want all of the team members to experience each piece, so we move and circulate the art amongst the different floors for everyone to enjoy.”

“We really have to give all the credit to our Chairman, President, and CEO Steve Swiontek, for setting the tone for us to do this. He really drives this unique culture and truly believes in investing in his team and their environment. The second-floor renovation is proof of this commitment. This is designed solely for the health and well-being of the team,” said Krabbenhoft.

Transforming Walls into Art

At the entrance to the second floor, their renovation sets the tone with a custom-designed, diamond-plate ceramic tile floor and laser-cut wall art which is positioned over a metallic wall and back-lit with color-changing LEDs. This stunning design feature is the first of its kind in North Dakota.

I think great design, art, furniture and lighting really engage people in their work. It makes the day so much more pleasant. By creating this type of environment, it shows a commitment and investment in all of their team members.”
Andrew Koedam, AIA – Vice President, Architect at Wild | CRG

Comforts of Home

As part of their unique and intuitive work culture, Gate City Bank offers employees access to an array of tools and amenities to help create comfort and increase productivity. Team members have access to different types of communal spaces and meeting rooms, adjustable desks, kitchens, TVs, reverse osmosis drinking water and specialized temperature-controlled environments.

Fabrics & Furnishings 

To create a space which mimics the comforts of home, Gate City Bank chose thoughtful furnishings and fabrics with a residential feel. Collaborating with the commercial furniture manufacturer, they’ve taken office furniture to a new level with unconventional, quilted fabrics and residential-influenced patterns and designs.

Conference Rooms + Cameras

With video conferencing between all of their locations, the team has designed a specialized conference table in the shape of a wedge to accommodate the camera swing. “Video conferencing really works well for us to have an open dialogue and communication with all of our coworkers from Williston to Alexandria,” said Krabbenhoft. To absorb outside noise, they’ve once again incorporated specially engineered drapery, which has an added design effect of softening the office environment.

Designed as a smaller, video conferencing room, this space is also considered a huddle room for brainstorming sessions and a space to utilize when more privacy is required. In an open work plan like this one, Gate City Bank believes in the need to provide diverse work environments for diverse needs.

The Collaborative Work Area

On the southeast side, we found their Collaborative Work Area, a beautiful space designed with multi-faceted functionality. This is not considered the employee lounge, but space where up to 20 staff members can work or meet with others. “I liken it to a student union where you grab a beverage and snack and meet with your team members,” explained Krabbenhoft.

With a full kitchen and open pantry on site, this area provides a hot beverage station, pellet ice machine, full appliance offerings and custom-designed, laminate cabinetry with a matching, wrapped refrigerator. The team uses the kitchen for official bank functions and company gatherings like potlucks. “When you design for a commercial setting, it’s a different process,” said Koedam. “You have to make everything intuitive so that all of the appliances and features are easily recognizable and usable, even to new team members.”

In the corner of the room, Krabbenhoft took an interesting design cue from a local university by mimicking their upholstered step seating. This is part of their Collaborative Work Area which provides one more comfortable and transitional space to work, complete with a built-in tray for drinks or snacks.

Transparency in the Workplace

At Gate City Bank, the majority of their offices are equitable in style and size with only a handful of them designed to be larger spaces. Almost all offices are enclosed in glass to help integrate a more transparent management style.

Taking Comfort in the Details

When it comes to more private areas like the restrooms, doors were made discreet with a continuation of the hand-painted, metal wall covering. Inside, their signature style continues with a flat-screen TV, dual vanities and ample art.

As part of their intuitive design, four coat closets on this floor are left open with TVs overhead – a simple way to encourage team members to store their coats during the work day, versus keeping them at their desks.

Walk at Work

One of the newest additions to the office is their treadmill workstation, specially designed for an office setting. Here, team members can find a change of pace while catching up on their emails. Gate City Bank regularly experiments with out-of-the-box ideas like this one that might bring a new element to their company culture.

White Noise

Bringing more life to a corporate setting, flat screen TVs are accessed throughout the office and in all 36 locations. “Everyone’s accustomed to TVs in the background now, so we usually have it on HGTV or Food Network, unless there is something going on like the Olympics or a local sports game,” said Krabbenhoft. “On this floor alone, we have nine TVs set on a low or muted volume and people seem to really like it. It really does not interfere with their work, it just adds some color and movement to the background.”

Staying Connected

Here, the atrium is not just a stunning feature with a view overlooking the first floor, it provides a necessary connection between the two floors and helps disperse natural light from the upper floor windows.

Conscious & Confidential 

Primarily considered a paperless office, each of the workstations features three screens to help eliminate excessive printing. With an effort to promote cleaner, greener communities, this floor has only two shared printers. This helps keep printing to a minimum and also aids with the confidentiality of their customer’s information.

Protecting customer information and employees is of utmost importance, so all entrances to this floor are private with security locks, motion detection cameras and check-ins by visitors are required.

In the works!

Utilizing every floor of their 1956 Downtown Fargo skyrise, Gate City Bank is not finished renovating. Currently, in progress is the lower level’s Innovation Center, scheduled to be complete by Christmas – this space will consist of a kitchen and six meeting rooms with two of those rooms expanding to create one large meeting room that will seat over 50 people.


Find the Finishes:

Architect – Andrew Koedam, Wild | CRG
Interior Designer – Karen Bye, Accomplished Design

Workstation furniture and treadmill – Business Essentials

Glass office enclosures – Fargo Glass & Paint

Lighting – Underbrush Gallery, SCHEELS Home & Hardware

Cabinetry – Fargo Cabinets

Countertops – Granites Unlimited

Tilework – McArthur Tile Co.

Painting – Morris Painting & Decorating

Construction Vendors:

Dakota Fence, Custom Aire, ETS, Precision Concrete Cutters, Inc., Mid America Steel, Inc., Red River Fabricating, Inc., Ledgestone, Inc., Waters Construction, G&M Lathing Contractors, Inc., Sig Olson & Sons Plastering, Inc., Flament-Ulman, Inc., Lunseth, JDP Electric, Inc, Miller Insulation, Fabricators, ISED, Fegley Services, MBN Engineering, Solien & Larson Engineering, Nova Fire Protection, Toshiba Business Solutions, City of Fargo

For more information, contact:
Gate City Bank
Amy Durbin, Vice President of Marketing & Business Intelligence
701.293.2497Gate City Bank
Jay Krabbenhoft, Senior Vice President of Administration
500 Second Avenue North, Fargo


Wild | CRG
Andrew Koedam, AIA – Vice President, Architect
500 Second Avenue North, Suite 514, Fargo
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[ Sneak Peek ] The City Centre Lofts Project

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis, renderings by Foss Architecture + Interiors FMI Team members Michael Kelly and Lori Prokop, along with architect Adam Peterson of Foss Architecture…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis, renderings by Foss Architecture + Interiors

FMI Team members Michael Kelly and Lori Prokop, along with architect Adam Peterson of Foss Architecture + Interiors. Not shown, FMI Team member and partner, Kevin Hall and design coordinator, Kathy Mawicke.

Those who know Downtown Fargo well, know that this distinct area has many different faces amidst eclectic personalities. While the bulk of the crowds are lured to the excitement of Broadway, others are drawn to the more serene face of downtown, just to the East of the bustling crowds. Exchanging vibrant nightlife for the quiet of nature and breathtaking river views, the new City Centre Lofts promises to win the hearts of both excitement seekers and nature enthusiasts. While this unique condominium project is in its early phases, we met with the FMI Team to give our readers a sneak peek of what’s to come in the heart of Downtown Fargo.

The New Face of Downtown
It’s time to do a drive-by and check out the future site of the City Centre Lofts project currently being developed. In pursuit of striking the perfect balance between nature and a contemporary, urban lifestyle, they will soon be located on Second Street and Fourth Avenue North in Downtown Fargo. Currently underway, their task begins with an underground parking project for the nearby city hall, followed by the start of construction on the four levels of residential loft units.

Evolving Plans
Hall and Kelly owned the prior location of the SideStreet Grille & Pub and Howard Johnson hotel. When that location became eminent domain for the flood wall, the two moved SideStreet to a new location at 404 Fourth Avenue in Downtown Fargo. After the new city hall was built and a need for parking was evident, the team took a portion of their property and made plans to support the city hall’s parking needs prior to starting their condominium project.

“It was a vision of mine many years ago that we were going to have condominiums above the hotel overlooking the river, so it just evolved into this project and has since taken on a life of its own,” said Kelly. “There was definitely a need for this kind of downtown living. I think we’ve struck the perfect balance between nature and urban lifestyle. You can walk across the street and have access to fishing and canoeing on the Red River as well as 99 miles of biking and hiking trails which lead to 3,000 acres of parks. Walk two blocks to the west and you’re in the urban downtown scene with restaurants, nightlife, shopping and theater.”

Developing partners Michael Kelly and Kevin Hall worked closely with design coordinator, Kathy Mawicke, Tim Leibl of Accent Contracting and architect Adam Peterson of Foss Architecture + Interiors to complete the life-like renderings of the stunning loft designs, with a plan to be completed by summer of 2019. With excitement for the new project and river view location, all nine of the penthouse units sold almost immediately; but not to worry, the remaining three floors have units that are still up for grabs. Here’s your sneak peek at what’s to come in the center of our city.

Here’s your sneak peek at what’s to come in the center of our city.

Communal Spaces + Amenities
“The top floor or Penthouse Vue, features a private work-out facility and private rooftop decks,” said Kelly. “On the second and third floors, there will be guest suites which residents will be able to reserve for visitors, holidays or weekends through the homeowners association. The ground floor or Plaza Vue will feature a workout facility, community lounge, kitchen and entertainment space with a pool table and TV area. Some of the additional amenities in this space will be determined by what the condo owners want in their space.” The two floors of units below the penthouse, the Grand and River Vues, will also have their own unique half-in, half-out balcony designed with sliding glass doors. All residents will have their own individual storage units and up to two heated, indoor parking spots and access to bike storage.

Top Floor | Top Notch
Residents in the penthouse condos will enjoy a stunning interior design with ceilings spanning 18 to 20 feet. “The most unique units are the top floor penthouse units,” said Peterson. “These are designed in a two-story layout which affords large, open spaces with a decorative stairwell that goes up to a loft where they can access the private, rooftop deck.”

“We went through a number of different options to make sure we could get the maximum views to the river and downtown,” said Peterson. “During the design process, we made sure that even at the ground floor or Plaza Vue, residents will still be able to see over the flood wall to the river.”

“This rooftop patio provides amazing views of Fargo and Moorhead downtowns as well as the river. The top roof decks of the penthouses and the balconies are still in design and will be determined soon,” explained Peterson. “The intent is to use a wood plank paver that ties into the wood used on the exterior.”

“During the design process, we made sure that even at the plaza ground level, residents will still be able to see over the new flood wall to the river.”
Adam Peterson, Foss Architecture + Interiors

Level Five Finishes
All units will have the default, level five finishes which Accent Contracting will be spearheading. After that, condo owners can customize their space however they would like with the help of personal consultations and design services provided by design coordinator Kathy Mawicke. While the penthouse units boast 18 and 20-foot ceilings, the remaining floors will also feature nearly 10-foot ceilings and spacious floor plans. “Foss Architecture designed the building envelope, floor plans, unit layouts, and created design renderings of what the units could look like. Each condo owner has their own distinctive style, however, and will work with FMI and Accent to select cabinets and finishes unique to their home,” said Peterson. “The floor plans are much larger than the typical condo or apartment unit. A standard two-bedroom ranges from 1,700 to 1,900 square feet with three-bedrooms available up to 2,500.”

“The City Centre Lofts team has been outstanding to work with. The finishes on the inside of the condo units right now are completely diverse,” said Tim Liebl of Accent Contracting. “Homeowners have the autonomy to select any color scheme that suits them. Right now, we are seeing soft grays mixed with dark taupe and black cabinets. The cabinets are about 50% frameless, 50% framed. The countertops are mostly quartz, with Cambria taking the lion’s share of the visuals so far.”

“City Centre Lofts is a premier downtown residence site. With the location centered between the river and downtown, it creates a fantastic blend of rural and urban design.”
Tim Liebl, Accent Contracting

Urban Landscape + Green Space
Residents at City Centre Lofts can take advantage of the planned green space on the property or make use of the city’s green spaces near the river. With the city’s future plans to provide an urban landscape park adjacent to the flood wall, the terrain and view will only keep getting better for City Centre Loft residents. “Eventually, they plan to create a landscaped corridor between City Hall and the City Centre Lofts, with walkways to the river. There’s also talk of designing a large green space to the east of the library,” said Peterson. Amongst the chatter is also potential plans to repurpose the existing civic center building into a performing arts center.

Exterior Ambiance
For the exterior, Foss Architecture and the FMI Team chose a dark brick and a maintenance free wood-grained cladding made to look like real western red cedar. “With the contrast of the warm wood against the black brick, it’s designed to have a more contemporary, Scandinavian look typically seen in Nordic regions with similar climates to ours,” said Peterson. “I think this will add a lot of warmth and character to the river location and a nice contrast against the white snow during those long winter months.” After dark, the lofts will play into the landscape, providing a lantern-like effect with its abundant glass, exterior lighting and sleek design. Residents can enter through their ground-level, heated and enclosed parking garage or through the secured public entrance and lobby on the north end.

In the Renaissance Zone
According to Kelly, being in the renaissance zone affords the owner of each condominium five years of property tax abatement, as well as five years of state income tax abatement valued at up to $10,000 a year. Prices of the units range from a spacious one-bedroom at around $219,000 to an array of larger units at around the $449,000 price point. With Fargo’s permanent flood protection now in place, an investment in this residence will be well protected.

“The City Centre Lofts support the city’s adopted strategic plans of bringing more housing to the Downtown Fargo area. This project fits nicely within our goal of integrating a unique mix of housing types and helps to build the number of households in support of Downtown Fargo as both a neighborhood and a destination.”
Nicole Crutchfield, Planning Director – City of Fargo

The City Centre Lofts Project: Timeline
Spring 2018 marked the start of construction!
-Phase 1 means first tackling the underground parking project for the city, with completion in the summer.
-Commence working drawings for Phase II of the residential units.
Spring 2018 – Final Phase II (Residential Shell) drawings from Foss architects are completed.
Summer 2018 – Framing begins.
Fall 2018-  Begin the exterior work on Phase II (residential shell).
Spring 2019 – Fit-ups begin for condos working from the top down.
Summer 2019 – Ready for closings and move in!

About FMI Team:
Kevin Hall’s family of companies is referred to as FMI which includes utilizing many of his branches such as FMI Construction, FMI Accounting and FMI Property Management. Michael Kelly is the sales arm of FMI while his wife, Lori Prokop assists in meeting with potential residents and ensures all documentation on the project is complete. Although Michael Kelly is an integral part of FMI Team, he is just as well-known for his role as a football coach at South Fargo High School for the past 34 years.

Fun Fact!
Formed in 1898, Foss Architecture + Interiors is the longest established architecture firm in all of North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota. Several of their projects are listed on the  National Register of Historic Places.


Team + Credits
City Centre Lofts Partners – Kevin Hall, Michael Kelly
General Contractor – FMI Construction
Job Superintendent – Craig Erickson
Project Consultant – Mike Skatvold
Management Company – FMI Property Management
Director of Sales – Michael Kelly
Sales Assistant – Lori Prokop
Architect – Foss Architecture + Interiors
Finishes including kitchen, bath and fit-ups – Tim Leibl, Accent Contracting
Design Coordinator – Kathy Mawicke
Social Media Coordinator – Rebecca Kelly


For more information, contact:
Team FMI / City Centre Lofts
Michael Kelly
200 4th Avenue North Fargo





Foss Architecture + Interiors

Adam Peterson – Principal / Architect, AIA, LEED AP

810 First Avenue North, Fargo

adam@ fossarch.com

Accent Contracting
(A division of Accent Kitchen & Bath)
Tim Leibl
3151 Main Ave, Fargo




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Old World Vs. New World Wines

Words by Laura Botten Photography by M. Schleif Photography We don’t judge our friends based on birthplace, but where our grapes are nurtured does matter. Recently, we gathered a group…

Words by Laura Botten
Photography by M. Schleif Photography

We don’t judge our friends based on birthplace, but where our grapes are nurtured does matter. Recently, we gathered a group at an event we regularly host called Brix & Banter. Our goal was to showcase the differences between Old World and New World wines and why these differences manifest themselves in the glass.

Defining our Wine
Simply put, Old World wines hail from eastern and central Europe, the birthplace of the “modern” wine industry. Vitis vinifera vines and grape varieties that produce the wines that we, as consumers know and love, are believed to have made their first appearance in the Caucasus Mountains in western Asia thousands of years ago, spreading from there into eastern Europe and the Middle East.

New World wines are the result of European colonization of the Americas, Oceania and South Africa over the centuries as vine cuttings made the voyage with emigrants destined for new beginnings. Over the years, these vines flourished in their new homes, living up to, and at times eclipsing, their old world counterparts.

The terms “Old World” and “New World” have moved beyond simply defining a wine by its geography and are now used to reference style and typicity. Since “style” is an extension of geography, politics, regulations, tradition and history, the two uses have an undeniable connection. If all of this seems like an overwhelming pop quiz, just hang in there. We promise it’s worth the read and far more fun than the classroom.

The table below outlines some of the differences between the two. Please keep in mind that these are generalizations, and as with all things wine, there will certainly be exceptions. However, the tasting component criteria outlined, are what a professional taster evaluates during the deductive tasting method to help determine a wine’s origin.

Side by Side Comparisons

At our spring Brix & Banter tasting, we decided to put the OW versus NW to the test, tasting similar wines side by side. It was an interesting exercise; the wines presented beautifully and were direct reflections of the style and typicity outlined above. To be certain we were comparing “apples to apples”, the price points and blends, where applicable, were similar.

Pairing #1: 

Chateau Val Beylie “Demoiselle” Bordeaux Blanc, France:
The Chateau Beylie, a traditional Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc (80%) and Semillon (20%) from a tiny vineyard (only 500 cases produced) was tasting exceptional. With intense fruit character and greater weight from extended maceration with the skins, this is a unique Bordeaux Blanc. It is redolent with white flower, gingerbread, herbs & honey notes. Unoaked & fresh, with moderate acidity (mediated by the Semillon), this is a crowd pleaser with layers of complexity.

Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, California:
Napa Valley is a warmer climate than Bordeaux, so the expectation is riper fruit character – pushing to more tropical fruit versus citrus fruit – which this wine delivered. This wine saw a modicum of oak influence, which included a tiny bit of Acacia wood that the winemaker feels brings a bit of an “almond” or nutty quality to the wine. A bit richer on the palate, more tropical fruit, less acidity, and a bit higher alcohol than its French counterpart, this is a personal favorite for “New World” Sauvignon Blanc.

*Both wines lack the very herbaceous and green notes associated with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Pairing #2: 

Macon-Lugny Les Charmes Chardonnay, Burgundy, France (100% Chardonnay):
Our new favorite Chardonnay, especially for summer drinking, meant it had to be shared!  This is a 100% Estate Chardonnay from the “Les Charmes” vineyard in Lugny, a village of the Maconnais. It sees no oak influence and is intended to be all about the fruit and unique terroir of the region – chalky, limestone soils – that many feel evoke minerality in a wine. It is luxurious on the palate, with ripe fruit, floral notes and a balancing acidity.

Napa Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California (100% Chardonnay):
This wine again showcased more intense fruit character and weight on the palate than its cooler climate counterpart. Baked apple, ripe pear, caramel and toasted pastry with buttery, creamy overtones and vanilla and spice from oak aging, leaves this wine begging for a nice lobster tail, creamy seafood pasta, chicken piccata or buttered popcorn!

*Both of these wines see 100% Malolactic Fermentation and Sur Lie Aging, with only the Napa Cellars meeting oak, and are great Chards to evaluate side by side!

Pairing #3: 

Jean-Claude Boisset Les Ursuline Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France (100% Pinot Noir):
With fruit coming from the Cotes-de-Nuits, the spiritual home of Pinot Noir, this quintessential Burgundy over-delivers at a reasonable price. Red fruit character – think cranberry, strawberry, ripe red cherry – along with subtle spice notes and a lovely “earthy” component, come together to reveal a refined, finessed and elegant drinking wine. Grab this for simply prepared salmon, duck or a mushroom-heavy dish. The higher acid, lower alcohol and more refined fruit character would also complement a cheese plate or creamy pasta.

Napa Cellars Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California (100 % Pinot Noir):
In keeping with the previous wines, the warmer Napa Valley climate produces riper fruit, with black cherry, earth, cola, spice notes and caramel; showcasing a more brooding, “masculine” expression of Pinot Noir. This wine sees more oak influence than the Bourgogne, which bodes well considering its bigger constitution. If you lean towards a more structured and “robust” Pinot Noir, this should find a home in your wine rack.

*These two Pinot Noirs deftly showcase the range of Pinot Noir.

Pairing #4:

Clos d’ L’Oratoire des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France:
Consistently rated 90+ points, this is a hidden gem that allows you to drink Chateauneuf-du-Pape without breaking the bank. Drinking beautifully, it was the crowd favorite. Frank & spicy, with licorice, black pepper and surprising, subtle florals evolve into more traditional notes of strawberry, cherry and fresh blackcurrant with subtle menthol. This is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah & 5% each Cinsaut & Mourvedre. Chateauneuf-du-Pape allows 13 (or 18, depending on how they are counted) grape varieties, but Grenache must hold the majority of the blend.

Abstract Red Blend by Orin Swift, California:
Abstract is a blend of Grenache (70-80%, varies by vintage), Syrah (2nd by volume) and Petite Sirah by iconic winemaker, Dave Phinney. Big, with dark briar fruit, ripe black plums, mocha, coffee and caramel on the nose and palate, ample tannins and oak influence, this wine is quintessentially Orin Swift: high alcohol balanced by robust fruit. Much like the label, it is a well-appointed collage that is greater than the sum of its parts. Enjoy with a big, juicy steak or barbecued ribs.

And the Winner is…

After every pairing, we took a vote. And, much to our surprise, our group of (mostly)  American palates favored the Old World wines every round. Not by a landslide, but certainly a majority. The greater takeaway was that indeed, these wines presented in the manner outlined above; Old World contenders were more subtle and acidic, lower alcohol and more terroir-driven with earthy and mineral notes. The New World wines were more concentrated and robust, with lower acid, higher alcohol and significantly more intense fruit character.

About Brix & Banter

Brix & Banter is the collaboration of restaurateur Dan Hurder and Laura Botten; both wine enthusiasts whose goal is to make wine fun and approachable while educating, dispelling myths and opening new doors (or bottles) for the novice or experienced wine drinker. Tastings are the second Wednesday of every month and you can follow them here:


Brix and Banter on Facebook: facebook.com/BrixAndBanter/


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The Pines: Weddings & Events [Q&A with founders, Grain Designs]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by M. Schleif Photography, renderings by Grain Designs, Transparent venue image by Exposure Creative Group This September’s bound to be an epic month for the…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by M. Schleif Photography, renderings by Grain Designs, Transparent venue image by Exposure Creative Group

This September’s bound to be an epic month for the guys of Grain Designs (this is their version of a pre-celebration…). Not only is it their milestone, five-year anniversary, it’s also the month they plan to launch their newest, and possibly biggest, venture to date. We’ve loved watching their business grow – first adding a shop in the country, a studio in South Fargo and a new storefront in the Shoppes at BLU Water Creek, but we’re willing to bet the farm that everyone will be falling in love with their latest project. They recently acquired 17 acres of land surrounding their rural Davenport shop – this included the property’s existing home, pool, shops and grain silos. To fully utilize the land, Grain Designs decided to marry their woodworking talents and share the country plot they’d come to love. Midwest Nest is proud to unveil the future plans for the new Grain Designs destination, The Pines: Weddings & Events!

With “The Pines” plans firmly in place and scheduled for their first wedding in the fall, the guys of Grains Designs gave us a quick tour of the grassy plot where the new venue is set to be built. Working with Rhet Architecture and Taylor Belk of Epic Homes, the team has designed an impressive venue with equally impressive amenities and country views. Whether you’re recently engaged or part of a corporate team in need of a break from the city, this will be an event destination offering an experience unlike all others.

With an ambitious vision and a hard opening date set for September, their first wedding is already in the books for team member Pat Bresnahan and his fiance, Nicolette Berge. The venue will be fully-functioning and the house will be renovated with a bridal party suite, bride and groom master suite and much more. Guests who book a wedding or event here will get full run of the farm, including the property’s guest house and in-ground pool.

In the Works…Silo Suites

Once the venue and house are completed, Grain Designs will move onto phase two, repurposing the grain silos into hotel rooms and suites for guests who want the full-on farm experience.

To find out more about the venue’s future plans, we took a tour around the farm with Grain Design’s team members, Grant Koenig, Blain Mikkonen, Phil Bruckbauer and Pat Bresnahan.

Exposure Creative Group

 Q&A with Grain Designs: The Pines

1. Where is The Pines located?

Grant – Technically, our address is Davenport, but we are just five miles west of Horace and about 10 miles southwest of Fargo.

2. Why did you decide to build a wedding venue and event center?

Grant – When the property became available we realized it was too much for us to take on just as Grain Designs, however, we didn’t want to leave. We loved being out here and the experience that it’s provided for us and we decided that we wanted to share that with other people. There are endless opportunities for what we can do with this property.

Blain – This property allows us to do what we love on a whole new level. We get to create a really interesting gathering space and experience that I think people are going to appreciate and want to be part of.

3. When do you plan to get started and who is managing the construction?

Blain – We will break ground this week and our goal for concrete is early June. We are working with Taylor Belk of Epic Homes to complete the new building. We’re also working with Rhet Fiskness of Rhet Architecture – he executed the construction documents for the official, stamped drawings. Then Grant and I created the 3-D model based on Rhet’s floor plan and completed the renderings. We were originally planning on using the existing building on the property for the event center, but structurally it just wasn’t feasible. Instead, we decided to build new on the open grass site to the east of our Grain Designs shop.

4. What will you be offering guests at the new venue?

Grant – The building is designed to be almost 9,000 square-feet and will accommodate 350 plus for a seated dinner. The design inside will be a very clean and classic white with black detailing and rustic, reclaimed wood elements. Within the venue, we will have a prep kitchen for the caterers, full bar set-up, outdoor patio and private men and women’s restrooms. We will also be building all of the farmhouse tables for the venue in addition to sliding barn doors, the bar and various features throughout the space.

Phil – We will have capabilities to accommodate outdoor ceremonies, with the space to move indoors in inclement weather. When you rent the property for the weekend, the house and pool will be offered as part of the package. We are also looking into different transportation options and hotel partnerships so that we can provide safe travels and additional lodging for large events.

Blain – Right now, we are actively exploring partnerships with various vendors such as Chef’s Table Catering for food service and The White House Co. for event staging. The Pines will have its own liquor license and there will be at least one or two mobile bars on the property and hosted bar options. We are not limiting the venue to weddings, we can also accommodate corporate events using the indoor and outdoor spaces. It will be a really multi-functional building.

5. When will The Pines be ready and how do we book an event?

Grant – The venue will be ready by mid-September. We will do pre-booking as of June 1st for winter events as well as spring and summer 2019 weddings. Right now, the best way to inquire about using The Pines for your future event is to use the “CONTACT” link on our website: ThePinesVenue.com. We want people to be able to use any or all of the property, so we encourage people to ask about any type of scenario from booking just the lawn or pool area, to the entire venue.

6. What will the existing house offer to your venue guests?

Grant – The house has an in-ground pool, patio, full kitchen, formal living room and will soon have a game room and four bedrooms with three baths. We are in the process of renovating each of the rooms to eventually sleep a total of eight to 10 guests. The house will primarily serve as the bridal suite to help you prepare for your big day, but is also available to rent for overnight stays as part of the full weekend experience.

7. What kind of renovations will you be doing on the house? 

Grant – We’ll be taking two rooms upstairs, combining them and adding french doors to create a bridal suite where the bridal party can get ready together. We will also be designing a larger master suite for the bride and groom. The kitchen was updated by the previous owner about four-years ago, so that will be one space that won’t need many renovations. The house is in great shape, so most of what we are doing is just cosmetic upgrades. Of course, we’ll have as much Grain Designs furniture in the house as possible.

Phil – On the exterior, we will be repainting, then updating the deck, pool and patios. Pat and his fiance, Nicolette, are currently living in the home and will be working on the renovations throughout the summer, so the main areas are planned to be completed by fall.

Pat – In the family room, we will be updating the flooring and trim, then painting the brick and designing our own reclaimed wood mantle. In the basement, we will be doing a hang-out area and game room for the groomsmen. We’re planning to put a ping-pong table, couches and TV down there as well.

8. What types of packages will The Pines offer?

Blain – There will be a few different packages; you can rent the property for the day or book the whole weekend experience with the house and pool. With the weekend wedding package, people will be able to host the groom’s dinner on Friday, ceremony on Saturday, then the gift opening and brunch on Sunday.

9. How did you come across this property in the country? 

Grant – Almost three years ago, we built a couple of pieces for a client in the lakes area and her friend was the owner of the farm at the time. She was there during this install and she happened to be my fourth-grade teacher. After the passing of her husband, she told us that she no longer had a use for the property’s shops. She mentioned that if we ever needed a place to work we should get in touch with her. Phil was also friends with her daughter from Shanley High School, so he was familiar with the land.

10. Will you be keeping your 52nd Avenue Studio open as well? 

Blain – Yes, we still have the South Fargo studio and our new store in Shoppes at BLU Water Creek is opening this month next to Eco Chic Home’s new storefront. The 52nd Avenue Studio will be a “behind the scenes” location serving as overflow storage for the new store.


Follow their Progress!

As Grain Designs completes the build and puts the finishing touches on The Pines, Midwest Nest will be following along to give our readers exclusive sneak peeks leading up to the final unveiling. Get ready as we reveal the before and afters and offer readers a glimpse inside their first wedding, this fall!

For more information, contact: 

Grain Designs





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[ Inside the New ] Beauteous Activewear

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography Shawn Seckerson has always been an active person, conquering boot camps in her past and a more calming yoga in the…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Shawn Seckerson has always been an active person, conquering boot camps in her past and a more calming yoga in the present. For years, she had practically lived in clothing designed for the gym, but like so many of us, she also relied on activewear in her daily life. Comfort was key, but the missing factor was always fashion. To find a solution, Seckerson started researching workout clothing and yoga brands, discovering new lines all over the world that were fusing new technology, function, comfort and fashion. With the idea of bringing the lines she loved home to Fargo, this research would become the spark that would ignite her new venture, Beauteous Activewear. See inside her new store located in South Fargo’s Shoppes at BLU Water Creek.

The Business of Athleisure
Seckerson’s business model is simple yet brilliant. With the concept that activewear should transition seamlessly from the gym to our life beyond, she envisioned a store with all of the high-performing, fashionable and comfortable workout lines she’s comes to love and live in.
“The quality is there and I wanted to let everyone else enjoy the things that I like about these lines and make activewear fun. I want people to have that expectation that there’s always going to be something new here,” said Seckerson.“Beauteous offers more universal workout clothing that can be worn anytime. I travel a lot for hockey with my kids so I love to wear the yoga lines for comfort when I’m traveling. I usually tend to lean towards the more fashionable activewear. I also carry an organic line called Malie; I found this in Hawaii, which is one of my favorite places in the world. They have lotions, soaps, candles, reed diffusers, linen and body sprays.”

Whether you’re striving for perfect planks or perfection in comfort, Beauteous offers many different yoga and athleisure-style clothing lines such as Kira Grace, Lorna Jane, Alo, Varley and more. “Right now, my favorite line is Lorna Jane. She’s from Australia and an amazing designer,” said Seckerson. “She’s got the great colors, support and unique looks in her line. It’s just coming to the United States and it’s big in California, so having it here in Fargo means we get to finally introduce it to the Midwest.”

Fashion-Forward Youth
These days, it’s not just moms that are living in yoga wear, it’s also their daughters. To appease both, Beauteous offers a youth line of activewear for girls, sizes 4 to 14.
Engineered Activewear
“Since we opened, we have had all kinds of athletes, from runners to basketball players in here asking about the high-performance clothing. The pants in the men’s and women’s lines have been really popular with the athletes,” said Seckerson. “They’re just looking for more comfort and a better fit that can endure a lot of pressure.” Seckerson’s engineered solution for the men is a newer line named Rhone.

”Rhone clothing is a really unique, high-performance line designed for men. In some of their materials, they have a trademarked technology called Celliant, which is a muscle re-builder,” said Seckerson. “This technology is in a lot of their shirts and shorts, so this is a great line to wear post-workout to help keep the blood flowing.” Rhone also offers a new GoldFusion, anti-odor technology in their lines, where the fabric is treated with a microbial gold treatment. The brand was recently recognized by Forbes magazine and also awarded the “Best anti-stink activewear” brand by GQ magazine.

For more information, contact:
Beauteous Activewear
3265 45th St S #120, Fargo

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